As a birth professional, I get asked one question repeatedly whenever I talk to expected parents. It never fails. We're discussing pregnancy, birth, and/or newborn care and mom, her partner, or maybe even a grandparent will undoubtedly ask me, "Do you have kids?" It's a question that always makes me inwardly cringe just a little. My answer thus far has always been an honest "No, I don't have any kids, yet." Then, I get the look. What's the look? Well, it generally involves a slight widening of the eyes or raising of eyebrows (sometimes, both) accompanied by an upward tilt of the chin and the dreaded "Oh". *sigh* It's a look that seems to say, "Oh, so you don't really know what you're talking about. You've never been there." Actually, one mom said exactly that to me. I suspect others (but not all) may have thought it, but didn't say it out loud. And I don't blame them.
When I was looking for my first ob/gyn (at the age of 17), I insisted on having a female practitioner. My rationale was basically that a man couldn't ever truly understand certain female things such as menstrual cramps, PMS, or breast tenderness. Now, that I'm finding myself on the recieving end of this same kind of rationalization, it kinda sucks. Don't get me wrong. I totally understand the feeling of wanting a provider who you feel can relate to what you're going through. But sometimes, I can't help but think that this kind of judgement is a bit unfair. After all, most people don't insist on going to a cardiologist who has had a few heart attacks of their own, right? As a midwife, I am experienced and educated in a way many people (even experienced parents) may not be. And, to be fair, most people I encounter don't seem to base their entire opinion of me or the care I give based on whether or not I have given birth. In truth, the discomfort I feel at being asked the question and recieving the look, can probably be largely attributed to my own perceptions.
It's just that sometimes it doesn't seem like its all in my head. The world of birth and parenting is a world full of judgement. Whether it's medicated or unmedicated, organic or non-organic, formula or breastmilk; judgement creeps up in many, often well-meaning, ways. And it sucks to feel like I have to explain myself to every well-meaning parent who asks, because a simple "no" often doesn't seem like enough. I've been asked, "So, when are you gonna have kids?" by parents who I've know for no more than an hour. What does one say to that? Saying, "Well, we've tried and tried, but we're dealing with some infertility issues at the moment.", seems to put a damper on the convo pretty quickly but that leads to a whole other kind of look. And that look is more cringe-worthy than the first one.